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Last edited: 17/06/2021
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Victoria Hislop
The Thread
480 pages
Thessaloniki, 1917. As Dimitri Komninos is born, a devastating fire sweeps through the thriving Greek city where Christians, Jews and Muslims live side by side. Five years later, Katerina Sarafoglou's home in Asia Minor is destroyed by the Turkish army. Losing her mother in the chaos, she flees across the sea to an unknown destination in Greece. Soon her life will become entwined with Dimitri's, and with the story of the city itself, as war, fear and persecution begin to divide its people.

Thessaloniki, 2007. A young Anglo-Greek hears his grandparents' life story for the first time and realises he has a decision to make. For many decades, they have looked after the memories and treasures of the people who were forced to leave.

Rather hyped novel, which didn't live up to the anticapation. For one, the characters never come alive. For example, what do we learn about Katarina? She's beautiful, she is obsessed with sewing (so much so, it's her hobby after a 10 hours work day doing sewing), she cries for her mother. But what does she think, what does she feel, what are her opinions, her values? And she is the main character! Why does she never visit her mother? The same for the other protagonists, we never learn much about them as persons. The only one who comes a bit alive is Komninos, but he is such a black character it is hard to believe that anybody has such a personality void of nuances. There is much suffering, but it never comes across so one could identify - what a difference to the opening scene of The Island, where the reader feels the need to cry after two pages, completely empathising with a person one does not even know yet! Here we know them for nearly 400 pages, but most of the time, their destiny does not touch us. And then the assumption that the reader is an idiot. A woman talking about synagogues. Next paragraph it is explained to us that she comes from a Jewish family. What a surprise! A girl who lost her mother praying in church, her lips forming the word mamma, and then the explanation: She is praying for her mother! Or the political teaching. We are told numerous times that it was a right-wing government, as if that was not obvious to even those who know nothing of Greece's history. We are told fifty times, that once Jews, Muslims and Christians lived in harmony, as if the fact a Christian woman takes on a Muslim wet nurse would not explain that much better. The plot is contrived - the way how Olga's letters are found, the sudden conversion of a war criminal, and the whole story around Mitsos: completely unconvincing. It's a pity.

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